The breakthroughs that change the course of science, business, and history are due in some part to the influence of geniuses and in some part to serendipity. LOONSHOTS is about engineering the forces of genius and serendipity to work for you rather than against you
How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries
by Safi Bahcall
St. Martin’s Press, March 2019
Every year, glossy magazines describe the winning cultures of innovative companies. Smiling employees raise gleaming new products like runners raising the Olympic torch. Leaders reveal their secrets. And then, so often, those companies crash and burn. Bahcall, a physicist and entrepreneur, finds answers in the science of phase transitions. The Nobel laureate Phil Anderson once captured the essence of phase transitions with the phrase “more is different.” The collective behaviors of liquids and solids—water flows, ice shatters—are more than the sum of their parts. They are something new: phases of matter. Bahcall shows why the collective behaviors of teams and companies are something new: phases of organization. Small changes in structure can transform teams from nurturing breakthroughs to inhibiting them, just like small changes in temperature can transform flowing water to rigid ice. Structure can matter more than culture. Drawing on examples from Aristotle to Star Wars, from Isaac Newton to Steve Jobs, Bahcall distills these ideas into practical rules that creatives, entrepreneurs, and managers can use to innovate faster and better. Along the way, readers will learn what James Bond and Lipitor have in common; why traffic jams appear out of nowhere on highways; and how these ideas and rules underlie the most consistently innovative organization in the world.
Safi Bahcall received his BA in physics from Harvard University and his PhD from Stanford University and was a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at U.C. Berkeley. In 1998, Bahcall joined McKinsey & Company, where he advised investment banks and pharmaceutical companies on strategy, technology, and operations. Bahcall co-founded Synta with Lan Bo Chen in 2001. In 2008, Dr. Bahcall was named Ernst & Young New England Biotechnology/ Pharmaceutical Entrepreneur of the Year. He and his work was featured in a Malcolm Gladwell profile in The New Yorker magazine in 2010.